Does anyone even remember I Love You, Phillip Morris, the somewhat weird, no-laugh-funny but certainly respectable Jim Carrey-Ewan MacGregor gay farce from 12 or 13 years ago?

Directed and written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra and based on the real-life story of con artist, impostor and multiple prison escapee Steven Jay Russell, it was a bizarre but well-made effort for the most part — a ludicrous, laughless comedy tinged with psychodrama.

It debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and didn’t open theatrically for almost another two years (12.3.10). It cost $13 million to make but only earned $20.7 million — a flop but not a wipeout.

What other films of the last, say, 20 or 25 years have (a) featured a big-name star or stars, (b) were about a controversial subject or an otherwise extreme story, (c) made a lot of noise when they opened but (d) are barely recalled today?

Critics weren’t allowed to say it then and they’re certainly not allowed to say it now, but the reason I Love You, Phillip Morris fizzled, I suspect, is that Joe and Jane Popcorn weren’t especially interested in watching Jim Carrey have obsessive, Olympic-style intercourse with young Obi Wan Kenobi. Plus Carrey wore a bad hairstyle.

Carrey was slowly on the way down at the time (his peak period was between Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (’94) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (’04) but he was still “that guy.”

From HE’s original review:

“The tone of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa‘s I Love You Phillip Morris is hard to describe. It’s a kind of dark comedy (i.e., there are bits that are intended to draw laughter), but since it’s a tale of obsessive gay loony love there’s really not that much to ‘laugh’ at.

“But there’s conviction in it — the emotions are as real as it gets — and the performances by Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as the lovers are intense and out-there and fully grounded. Nobody’s putting anyone on, I mean.

“The tone is somewhere between high-toned soap opera and hyper-real absurdism, but it’s more or less fact-based. And the things that make it respectable and worthy and bold (which I feel it definitely is) are the sad moments, the irrational I-love-you acts, the bad behavior, the hurt. It’s nuts, this movie, and that’s what I liked about it.

“Love is strange, silly, demeaning, glorious, heartbreaking. A drug and a tidal wave that can destroy as easily as restore. And I Love You Phillip Morris is not laughing at this. At all. It’s a movie with balls and dicks and loads of heart and soul.

“I like this line from the Sundance notes: ‘As a primer on the irresistible power of a man who is either insane or in love (is there a difference?), I Love You Phillip Morris surely serves to remind us of the resilience of the human spirit.'”

Update: Here’s another film no one ever wants to re-watch, much less talk about, ever again: Zack Snyder‘s Sucker Punch (’11). Pure torture.